The 5th Month – אב/Menachem Av Part I

The 5th Month – אב/Menachem Av Part I  

Part of an ongoing series entitled Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface

by Betty Givin aka Elisheva Tavor

We’ve come through the tragic and painful 17th Day of Tammuz which commemorates the day in which the walls of Jerusalem were breached; and now three weeks later, as we anticipate looking upon the tiny sliver of another new moon marking Rosh Chodesh Av we will find ourselves entering into the nine days…on the cusp of an even more tragic and painful day, that of Tisha b’Av, the historic 9th day of Av which marks the burning of Jerusalem and the destruction of  not only the first Holy Temple in 586 BCE, but also the second in 70 CE. 

This day is a day of fasting and bitter mourning and is referred to as the saddest day in Jewish history. Yet in the very name of the month in which it falls, we are consoled and blessed with the assurance that HaShem our G-d and Father was right there with His people during those horrific times… just as He is with us today providing comfort in our sadness; for the name of this month represents one of many hidden sparks beneath the surface. It is called Av…אב, which in Hebrew means Father. It is often referred to as Menachem Av, meaning the “Comfort of the Father.” When may we ask are we in most need of comfort? It is during those times of suffering and affliction.

During this three week period it is customary after the regular reading of the Torah portion in the synagogues to read what we refer to in Judaism as The Three Haftorahs of Affliction, Admonition or Rebuke.

Jeremiah 1:1–2:3

Jeremiah 2:4–28 followed by 4:1–2 or 3:4

 Isaiah 1:1–27

These readings are taken from the opening chapters of the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah and center on the theme of HaShem’s utter disappointment and heartbreak regarding Israel’s unfaithfulness. Heartfelt and powerful, these words can bring tears to the eyes of the reader. They warn of the dire consequences that would come if Israel did not mend her ways…sadly they fell on deaf ears and the destruction and the exile ensued, for there are always consequences to pay. I have included some selections below, but would encourage you to read and meditate upon the entire portions for yourself.

“Hear O heavens and give ear O earth, for HaShem has spoken: I have reared and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows his owner, the ass his master’s crib; but Yisrael does not know. My people does not consider…”They have forsaken HaShem; they have provoked the Holy One of Yisrael to anger; they are gone away backward.” (Isa 1:2-4)

“From the north shall the evil loose itself from the inhabitants of the Land.” (Jer.1:14)

“The teachers of the Torah did not know me; the shepherds of the people rebelled against me and the prophets prophesied in the name of Baal.” (Jer. 2:8)

”Your evil shall castigate you; your waywardness shall chasten you.”(Jer.2:19)…

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jer 2:13) 

“Your evil shall castigate you, your waywardness shall chastise you and you shall realize and you shall see that evil and bitter is your forsaking of HaShem your God and that there is no awe of Me upon you. “(Jer2:19)

In spite of the gloom and doom behind these words, each of these three haftorah portions ends on a note of hope and inspiration. This concept is reflected in the words of Rabbi Hertz in his commentary on The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p.711) Speaking of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, he says that he was called upon by HaShem “to preach repentance, threatening judgment, and at the same time, holding out the promise of restoration. But even in his darkest moments when he utterly despairs in the future of the Jewish state, his faith and trust in God do not forsake him. ‘Though all be lost,’ he seems to say to Israel, turn to God in perfect trust, call Him your Father and His love will regenerate you.’ This is the message of Menachem Av!

May we open our hearts and our ears to receive these words today!

In Jewish circles the tradition during these first 9 days of the month leading up to Tisha b’Av is to refrain from engaging in experiences that bring us pleasure. Traditionally there are no happy events– no vacations, weddings, no wine, no dancing. 

Whether we are Jewish, B’Nai Noach, lost tribes or other we here at Netiv are all family for we have joined ourselves to HaShem, the One G-d and Creator of the Universe and to His Torah! 

As sad and tragic as the events of these days have been in history, even up to and including the present, we need to strive with all our hearts to rise above them and seek our G-D, so we pray and stand strong for we cannot allow ourselves to become so overwhelmed that we become paralyzed, dismayed and frozen with the rampant baseless hatred that has plagued the human race since Gan Eden. We must work to turn that baseless hatred into baseless love.

Just imagine for a moment the difference in our world today if we could each adopt and live by this attitude.

As we go through these next 9 days leading up to Tisha b’Av, may we earnestly strive to take a deep introspective look at ourselves, do t’shuvah, “return to our hearts” as we are admonished in Deuteronomy 4:39. 

May we engage in tikkun olam (the repair of our world) by first endeavoring to repair what is broken in us, b’ezrat HaShem, (with the help of HaShem). As we are then repaired may we reach out and help repair the brokenness that lies all around us. 

The Koksker Rebbe has a beautiful quote. He says, “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart.” This time period does indeed carry with it a sense of heaviness and mourning, but it also can be a time of innate joy, a time of simcha as we come together and find blessings in the midst of the heartache and look forward to the redemption when HaShem will wipe away all our tears. We all have a G-d given part to play…but it must start on a one to one basis…with each of us as individuals. 

Cognizant of the past and surrounded by the present day chaos in our world today, we must strive to turn our focus inward so that we can become better people…people building up one another, instead of tearing each other down. We must hold on, take heart and draw closer together. 

Remember Yosef? He was sold by his own brothers (traditionally the date was Tisha b’Av); but what did he do in response to their baseless hatred? He turned it into baseless love…he embraced them and forgave them completely; and they became a family, united once again,’ and out of that family, came a nation, one that after much struggle and hardship finally came out of the “straits,” the narrow place, Mitzrayim, the place of restrictions. You know the history from there…all about the wilderness wanderings, coming into the land, the destruction of both temples, the galut/diaspora…yet through it all HaShem’s eyes have never left His people…His Good Hand, the Yad Tova, as my brother James refers to it (although often hidden) has always been upon His people and is presently with them and with all who attach themselves to Him, to them and to His Torah.

We are reminded of the prophetic passage from Zechariah 8:23, set off  in white spaces which reads, צְבָאוֹת יְהוָה אָמַר כֹּה, “Thus says HaShem of Hosts; in those days it shall come to pass that ten men out of all the languages of the nations shall take hold, and shall seize the skirt {tzit tzit} of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that HaShem (Elohim) is with you.” 

This prophecy in Zechariah in addition to the one in Isaiah 56:8 which states, “He will gather to the gathered,” are just two of many prophecies in the Tanakh which proclaim the surety of the coming redemption! 

If we open our eyes and look around us today past the chaos, we can see signs of the ingathering coming to pass right before our very eyes! HaShem’s children are waking up, coming to themselves and returning to their hearts!

Therefore as we enter this 5th month, the new month of Menachem Av and prepare to commemorate the 9th day of Tisha b’ Av with its sadness and tears over all the tragic events that have occurred, we can look forward with hope and faith to the final redemption when there will be no more mourning, and the prophecy in Zechariah 8:18-23, (also encompassed in white spaces) comes to fruition… that awesome day when all the Fast days including the upcoming fast of the 5th month will be turned into days of simcha…rejoicing and celebration, and HaShem’s House will be a House of Prayer for all people, never to be destroyed again. Baruch HaShem!!!

In the poignant words of Rebbe Nachman, “Tears open gates, music demolishes walls”. We need both…we begin with tears and look forward to the music!

Stay tuned for The Awesome Day of Tisha b’Av…What Can we Learn?

28 Tammuz 5780 by Elisheva Tavor


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